Menopause Mechanics: 2. It’s Not an Oestrogen Problem. It’s a Brain Problem.
"If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”
- Nikola Tesla
Hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety, insomnia, brain fog, headaches - what do all these symptoms have in common? They all start in the brain - they are neurological.
The brain is the control centre of the body and 70% of it is made of fat. It consists of grey and white matter, and is mainly made up of neurons. Neurons are like electrical wires which are insulated with an outside covering of fat instead of plastic. Neurons are responsible for receiving sensory input from the outside world, for sending motor commands to our muscles, and for transforming and relaying signals at every step in between. They form the information superhighway.
Electricity travels along the densely packed neurons, interconnecting the whole brain and keeping it fully functioning. Crucially, this only works if they are are fully covered and insulated with fat - otherwise the electrical signal stops, lines of communication are broken and brain function deteriorates.
Powering the brain takes up about 30% of the body’s energy. The brain is hugely energy hungry and it can use 2 types of energy: one made from carbohydrate, and one made from fat. Or at least it could, until the menopause.
Imagine that your brain is like a fancy hybrid car which can be fuelled by petrol or electricity. and is happy to switch between the two. As the years go by, your car is less and less able to use petrol and begins a process of turning off the petrol powered machinery to mainly use electricity. It switches from using both petrol and electricity, to mainly using electricity. But you keep pouring petrol into your car, oblivious to the fact that it can’t use petrol anymore, and now your car keeps randomly stalling, the dashboard lights keep blinking, there’s petrol seeping out everywhere and the whole thing is a frightening, stressful mess.
How does this relate to the brain? The brain can use carbohydrate (petrol) and fat (electricity) as fuel but as menopause approaches, a metabolic switch occurs: over time the brain switches off the machinery that can use carbohydrate and moves to mainly using fat.
Why does this happen? The use of carbohydrate as a fuel needs oestrogen. As the menopausal transition progresses, oestrogen levels fall lower and lower. As oestrogen fades, the amount of carbohydrate that oestrogen transports to brain cells falls lower and lower. At the end of the menopausal transition oestrogen levels have fallen by up to 70%. If something doesn’t change, the brain will starve to death. The brain needs fat for fuel now and it knows it - it’s find fat or die a slow death. But there’s no fat coming in - all there is, is more and more and more carbohydrate: bread, pasta, biscuits, chips, chocolates and liquid sugar washing it all down.
Nevertheless, fat must be had, and it is found at source - after all the brain itself is 70% fat. Research shows that the fat that covers and insulates neurons is stripped and used for fuel. The brain cannibalises itself to survive, it shrinks and it breaks down. Exposing the electrics shorts the circuits stops the nerves from working and communications stall. Not only does this sound like holy armageddon, that's probably how it feels when it leads to hot flushes, brain fog, anxiety, migraines, depression, night sweats, panic attacks, insomnia, stroke and a progressive move to dementia and Alzheimers.
It's becoming increasing clear that menopausal symptoms which originate in the brain are not really an oestrogen problem. The problem is that during the menopausal transition the brain is in the process of a metabolic switch: it switches from using oestrogen-mediated carbohydrate as fuel, to using fat. On a high carbohydrate diet, with low access to fats, the brain is starving and losing functionality, and the loss of connection between the different parts of the brain and the rest of the body is immensely harmful.
I hope you find this article useful, I will be updating it as new information comes to light.
PS. Don’t forget: this article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should never not be relied upon for specific medical advice. Every woman experiences the menopause differently and if you would like specific advice, I recommend that you get in touch and join the Modern Menopause Program which will be personalised to your specific symptoms: a thorough assessment of your health will provide vital insights and allow me to create the perfect health plan for you.